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Musharraf confirms Al-Qaeda commander killed in Pakistan

Hamza President Pervez Musharraf confirmed Saturday that an Egyptian and top Al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan had been killed, but someone claiming to represent the terror group denied that the man was dead.

Asked by reporters on arrival at Kuwait airport to confirm a newspaper report that Hamza Rabia was killed in a missile strike on Thursday, Musharraf said: "Yes indeed, 200 percent confirmed."

Musharraf said Hamza was killed "in North Waziristan", a tribal area on the Afghan border.

"It is a place called Mirali, or little north of this town, that’s the place," he said. "I think he was killed the day before yesterday (Thursday), if I am not wrong."

In Islamabad, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao also confirmed the killing and made clear that Rabia was Egyptian. The Dawn newspaper, which had reported the news earlier Saturday, had said he was a Syrian.

"Al-Qaeda operative Hamza Rabia, who was killed in the explosion, was an Egyptian national," Sherpao told AFP. "He was a very important Al-Qaeda commander."

"Five people were killed in the explosion and we have identified that one of them was Hamza Rabia. There were two other foreigners but we do not know their identities," he said.

Officials say the bodies of the two locals were found in the house, but that those of the foreigners, including Hamza, were believed to have been spirited away.

They said intelligence had intercepted inter-militant communications, according to which the man known as Nawab, a Hamza alias, had been killed.

But Al-Arabiya television said it had been contacted by a person claiming to be from Al-Qaeda denying that Hamza was dead.

"An official from the Al-Qaeda group has denied, in a telephone conversation with the Al-Arabiya channel, that Hamza Rabia has been killed," a presenter on the Arab satellite channel told viewers.

The caller said five people were killed in the explosion, but that they were two local men, two Tadjiks and an Arab named Suleiman al-Moghrabi.

According to a CIA list of most wanted Al-Qaeda terrorists operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan seen by AFP, Hamza has a five million dollar bounty on his head.

Dawn claimed the casualties were the result of an explosion inside a house, but tribal witnesses insisted that a "hail of missiles fired from unmanned air vehicles struck the house".

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said the explosion was not a result of any operation in the rugged region, where the army has been hunting for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives.

Musharraf’s visit to Kuwait, his first to the emirate since taking power in 1999, is the first leg of a Gulf tour that also take him to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

He is due to hold talks with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah during his two-day visit.

Musharraf said the purpose of the visit is "to strengthen political bonds through stronger economic and commercial relationships ... and how to enhance our commercial and economic relationships."

Talks will also tackle "coordination on the anti-terrorism campaign that Pakistan and other countries are involved in," he told reporters at the airport.

The official KUNA news agency quoted Musharraf on Saturday as saying that his talks in Yemen will discuss efforts to improve intelligence cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

In Saudi Arabia, Musharraf will attend the summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Oil-rich Gulf Arab states have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and airlifted large amounts of relief assistance for survivors of the devastating quake that recently struck south Asia, mainly in Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia announced an emergency aid package worth 133 million dollars to help rebuild infrastructure in Pakistan, while Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged 100 million dollars each.

Half of the amount granted by Kuwait will be offered in the form of relief assistance while the other 50 million dollars will be used to repair infrastructure damaged by the quake


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